- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2017

The White House called a Florida congresswoman “all hat and no cattle” Friday in a continuing war of words over the lawmaker’s criticism of President Trump’s call to the widow of a slain soldier.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that presidential Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was accurate when he described Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson talking mostly about herself at the dedication of an FBI building in Florida in 2015.

“There was a lot of grandstanding,” Mrs. Sanders said. “He was stunned that she took that opportunity to make it about herself.”

She said of the lawmaker who has a fondness for hats, “As we say in the south — all hat and no cattle.”

Mrs. Wilson has criticized Mr. Trump’s alleged insensitivity for his phone call of condolences to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, saying the president told her that her husband “knew what he was getting into.” The lawmaker overheard parts of the call on speakerphone.

Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, excoriated Mrs. Wilson on Thursday, saying she violated a “sacred” moment by listening in on the president’s call. He accused her of being an “empty barrel,” and said he attended the 2015 ceremony, implying that she praised herself instead of talking about the two slain FBI agents who were being honored.

In response on Friday, Mrs. Wilson accused Mr. Kelly of making a “racist” comment about her. She is African-American.

A video posted by the Sun-Sentinel shows Mrs. Wilson at the ceremony for nearly 10 minutes. In her remarks, Mrs. Wilson did devote about three minutes touting her own actions to pass a bill quickly to name the new FBI building after the slain agents, calling her work “a miracle, to say the least.”

But she also spoke at length in praising the agents who Mr. Kelly said on Thursday had deserved the attention that day.

“Today it is is our patriotic duty to lift up Special Agent Benjamin Grogan and Special Agent Jerry Dove from the streets of South Florida and place their names and pictures high where the world will know that we are proud of their sacrifice, sacrifice for our nation,” the lawmaker said in the video.

When a reporter pointed out the lawmaker’s comments to Mrs. Sanders, the press secretary insisted that Mr. Kelly’s version was correct. She said Mrs. Wilson made other remarks that day which were not recorded on the video.

Gen. Kelly said he was ‘stunned’ that Rep. Wilson made comments at a building dedication honoring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former President Obama on legislation,” Mrs. Sanders said. “As Gen. Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes all about yourself, you’re an empty barrel.”

When a reporter persisted in asking whether Mr. Kelly was mistaken in his characterization of the ceremony, Mrs. Sanders retorted,

“If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that’s up to you. If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s highly inappropriate.”

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